Politics does indeed make strange bedfellows, with a little help from religion.
Very puzzling, particularly to Republicans, is the way Asian Americans voted almost three to one for President Obama.
As conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg observes, Asian Americans' family income is higher and their poverty is lower than average, and their "entrepreneurship, family cohesion and traditional values all run strong," and their "reliance on government runs weak." These are all GOP core values.
The main reason they didn't vote Republican is that most of them aren't Christians, and increasingly the GOP is a club for Christians, reports Goldberg who is Jewish. He has felt a bit slighted when he was the headline speaker at GOP rallies and the invocations were exclusively Christian in tone and reference.
Another reason that Asian Americans, like Jewish Americans, tended to vote Democratic is that both groups highly value education and science, and the GOP has increasingly taken on an fundamentalist Christian outlook that is wary of scientific facts such as evolution and the effects of human pollution on the environment.
Largely because of health care issues, the Catholic Bishops advised their faithful to vote their consciences but strongly hinted there was really only one way to go. By a narrow margin, most did not go that way; instead they went Democratic. One traditionally Catholic group, Latino Americans voted very much like Asian Americans, three to one for the Democrats.
The Christian club effect was not golden for the GOP but it was a complicating factor in the last election.
And it is a powerful and complicating factor within our military, which also seems to have become a club for Christians, including at our Academies. Christians now apparently predominate not only in numbers but also in influence. One Cadet recently left West Point because of harassment over his non-Christian beliefs.
A number of current and former Army members have complained about this influence that is offensive to non-Christians, including those of other religions and those of no religion.
Such an influence is surprising to this draftee and former chaplain's assistant, who served one of my two years in Korea. Back then, 1963-65, there was no disparagement of non-Christians. The overall troop culture was hardly religious. I knew firsthand.
Troops did attend services, but in small numbers. On the main UN post in Seoul, we had Protestant, Jewish and Catholic chaplains. We were a presence. We were available. But we were hardly harassing.
Well, maybe a little. One Catholic chaplain I worked for had his way of getting troops to Sunday Mass. Father Joe Sheehan, a full colonel who had served as a chaplain in the Korean War a decade earlier, could put on a gruff military manner.
He had a sharp eye for last names that were probably Catholic. A number of times when he and I were walking somewhere and we were approached by a soldier, Father Joe returned the salute then called him out by name (which was clearly inscribed on his uniform):
"Rizzoli, why the hell aren't you going to Mass? I'll see you there this Sunday morning. South Post Chapel, ten sharp. Better yet, come early and say a Rosary. You need it. That's an order." Then he would smile warmly, let the young man take a breath, and say something like "Peace be with you."
One time I went into Father's office to get something for our Korean secretary, not knowing he was in there. He had come in through the outside door to his office to hear a confession. As soon as I saw this, I apologized, backed off and immediately shut the door.
What I glimpsed ever so briefly was the back of the soldier in fatigues and Father's face listening patiently, attentively, understandingly and forgivingly, the priest, the pastor inside the gruff military exterior. All that in an instant: the look of forgiveness. I obviously haven't forgotten it after almost 50 years.
Of course this pastoral work still goes on in the military. But something has apparently changed since we discontinued the draft and have more of a self-selection process. The military now seems less tolerant of those with different religious beliefs or with no religious belief.
Yet, recently there have been two gay marriages at the U S Military Academy. Go figure.
Will puzzles never cease? We have Asian Americans voting Democratic and gays marrying at West Point.
(James Lein is a community columnist for The Minot Daily News)